Dealing with new technologies

12 February 2014

Debashish Munshi and Priya Kurian

Communicating science: Debashish Munshi and Priya Kurian, looking for new ways to get people more engaged in science and technology.

A group of Waikato University researchers is looking at ways to take science and technology out of the “too hard basket” and get people talking and more engaged.

Management communication Professor Debashish Munshi and political science Associate Professor Priya Kurian are hosting an international symposium next week which they hope will help to re-shape public engagement on potentially controversial new and emerging technologies, such as nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and assisted reproductive technologies.

International symposium

The symposium will bring together people researching in various disciplines, including science and technology, social sciences, the arts, humanities, public policy and communication.

“And we will have policy and planning practitioners too,” says Associate Professor Kurian. “On issues like this, you have to get past the pro- and anti-positions people might have on a controversial science – you have to go deeper and we’ve brought together people from New Zealand and overseas to discuss different ways of facilitating public engagement on controversial issues.”

Highly-respected speakers

The two-day symposium on February 17 and 18 is being funded by a Marsden grant. Speakers include award-winning physics professor Shaun Hendy from the University of Auckland, eminent indigenous scholar Dr Kim Tallbear from the University of Texas and Professor John Dryzek from Australian National University who’s an expert on democratic governance.

“The objective of the symposium is to generate intense conversations among people from different backgrounds and spark new ideas for policy makers to work with,” says Professor Munshi. One of the six policy engagement sessions will be chaired by Kristiann Allen, Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister’s Science Advisory Committee.

Topics will cover energy and environmental science, reproductive technologies, laws and ethics around new science, communicating science, indigenous views on new technologies, and citizen and stakeholder engagement.

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